Why Presidential Candidates Need a Founder’s Mentality

democrat donkey versus republican elephant political illustratio
This is a guest post by Chris Zook. Chris is a partner at Bain & Company and has been co-head of the firm’s Global Strategy practice for 20 years. He specializes in helping companies find new sources of profitable growth. He is the co-author with James Allen of five bestselling books on strategy, including The Founder’s Mentality: How to Overcome the Predictable Crises of Growth.

Do You Have a Founder’s Mentality?

Few countries revere its founders as much as the U.S. does. From the founding fathers who came together to write the Constitution to the founders of our most iconic and enduring companies and institutions, we see founders as role models of leadership and positive vision in a world where great leadership and the positive energy of hope are increasingly needed more than ever.


Fact: 1 in 3 winners of the TIME Person of the Year is a founder.


In the past 20 years, nearly one in three recipients of the TIME Person of the Year Award has been a founder (including Steve Jobs, who received honorable mention the year he died). Books and movies about founders have captured the public’s imagination, from The Social Network about Mark Zuckerberg and the founding of Facebook to the eagerly anticipated release at the end of this year of The Founder starring Michael Keaton, about McDonald’s founder Ray Kroc. Entrepreneurship is one of the fastest growing categories of school and class enrollment—everyone wants to be a founder. Whereas trust in our largest companies is at an all-time low, smaller, often founder-led companies head the list of institutions in which we collectively have confidence.

ZookChristopher_2015 (2)Great founders also achieve great results. During the ten-year period from 2002 to 2012, nearly 50 percent of the value created in the U.S. stock market was from 15 companies—like Google, Apple, Oracle, and Facebook—that are part of the ecosystem centered at Silicon Valley, the ultimate crucible for founders. Throughout this period, founders were at the helm or still involved in 13 of 15 of these value-creating companies. Moreover, since 1990, across the entire stock market, those companies where the founder remained influential performed more than three times better than those where the founder was nowhere to be found.


FACT: Since 1990, companies with influential founders perform 3x better than uninvolved founders.


Even more important for the U.S. is the role of these growing companies in job creation—the issue of primary importance for the average American.  Research by the Kauffman Foundation shows that the largest companies have been net destroyers of jobs in America (as have governments). By contrast, the smaller, frequently founder-led companies are the source of nearly all good new jobs. The data on new company formation and their growth across economies shows that our ability as a nation to encourage, nurture, and celebrate founders is central to making the U.S. economy so robust and allowing us to be the privileged nation that we are.  At a time when ensuring the supply of good new jobs is so important, we should heed the role of founders—and especially the lessons we can learn from them about building the enduring institutions that are the foundation stones of a great country.

Of course, the founders of our country and later of its defining businesses and organizations were human beings, often flawed, with personal quirks or dissonant personal beliefs. Yet our research on these enduring institutions and how the founders set them up in the first place shows that the great founders shared three common traits that enabled their accomplishments and were often infused into their organizations. We should note these three elements as we decide the traits we want in America’s next leaders.


3 Common Leadership Traits of Great Founders

First, great founders are insurgents, vocal and eloquent about an inspiring mission to improve the world. From Jefferson’s list of the unalienable rights that define why governments exist to Elon Musk’s desire at Tesla to redefine transportation, to the founders of Google’s objective to “organize all of the world’s information,” a purpose stated in the most positive and inspiring tone was always at the center. We live in a world in which only 13 percent of employees say they have any emotional connection to the purpose of the organization where they work. Yet, those who do have that connection to a positive mission of what their company is striving for are three and a half times more likely to offer innovative ideas or go the extra mile to solve a problem on the spot. This is in stark contrast to our current election year, which has been branded “the most negative campaign in history.”


Positive, inspiring purpose statements are at the center of great companies.


The second trait that great founders of enduring institutions share is an obsession with the details on the ground, and a focus on (and empathy for) the people at the front line. In businesses, founders were often salespeople or product developers first and the best ones maintained that ground-level mentality even as their institutions grew and prospered. Henry Ford referred to the contribution of plain men who never got into history. Arguably, the greatest contribution of Ray Kroc was his development of a franchising model that allowed all of his store managers to become mini-founders in their own right.


Enduring institutions have an obsession with the details and focus on the front line people.

10 Reasons Drawing Improves Your Leadership

Draw to Win

Draw to Win

Want to make your idea clearer to others?

Looking for a way to have your message stand out?


“Open your eyes and look within.” -Bob Marley


Dan Roam just wrote a new book, Draw to Win: A Crash Course on How to Lead, Sell, and Innovate With Your Visual Mind, and it challenged me to communicate in new ways. I’ve always been visually oriented, but drawing is not always on my top “go to” list of tools.

I’ve learned that it should be.

Drawing is not something only for kids. It’s a powerful communication tool if used properly. I recently asked Dan about his life’s work.


“Business without pictures is boring.” -Dan Roam


Don’t Resist the Visual

In business, some would reject images and drawings as childish. You say that it’s the most natural thing in the world and dismiss this. Why do some people feel that way and resist the visual?

If you’ve ever witnessed a board meeting, suffered through a bullet-point presentation, or tried to read a business-school article, you know first-hand that “serious” businesspeople hate pictures. Pictures are childish, simplistic, and patronizing.

But if you consider that most meetings are torture, that most people sleep through PowerPoints, and secretly admit you’d rather watch Game of Thrones than read “The Harvard Business Review,” you also know this hatred of pictures is insane. The sad fact is that business without pictures is boring – and boring doesn’t get the job done.

There are many reasons this anti-picture mentality persists: In school drawing is considered just a stepping-stone to reading. Most of us had a parent or teacher who told us sometime that our drawings were terrible, and there are few resources for creating or critiquing business-oriented pictures, etc. But I think the most profound reason pictures are poo-pooed in business is historical.

Think about it like this: A century and a half ago, we inherited our educational system from the British – and most of it was developed during the industrial revolution. England (and America, who still looked across the Atlantic for guidance on most social issues) suddenly found itself needing to shift its workforce from fields into factories. Faced with millions of former farmers who had to learn overnight how to pull the right levers in the right order, our modern educational system was born, and the essence was this: If you could talk well, you went to university, banking, and law. If you couldn’t talk well, you went to the factory. The die was cast, and to this day the greatest definer of “intelligence” – despite increasing data and cognitive studies pointing out the power of pictures – remains your ability to talk. That’s great if you’re a natural Shakespeare, but miserable if you’re more Michelangelo.


“The best CEOs I know are teachers, and at the core of what they teach is strategy.” -Michael Porter


How to Start Drawing

In your work, many will tell you what I’m thinking right now, “But, Dan….I can’t draw!” What do you say to the many who resist?

It’s important to realize that drawing isn’t an artistic process; drawing is a thinking process. By virtue of being human, you are from birth an extraordinary visual-thinker. More of your brain is dedicated to processing vision that to any other thing that you do, with nearly half your neurons keeping you alive by seeing the world around you.

Kids love to draw. Drawing is the first way that all of us model and record our thoughts, and as kids we’re really good at it – until the “That’s a terrible dog; dogs don’t look like that!” judgement sets in, and drawing is beaten out of us.

Don’t get me wrong: I love words; words and spoken language are a miracle – but words work best when supported by pictures. Words and pictures amplify and complement each other – in exactly the same way our brains work when making sense of the world.

Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission

Once you realize that, drawing becomes easy to reintroduce: You start by drawing a few simple shapes – a circle, a square, and a line to connect them – and before long your visual mind wakes back up and you’re on a roll.

(In fact, when I do training at major organizations and corporations, it takes most people about three minutes to start drawing again.)


“Business has only two functions-marketing and innovation.” -Milan Kundera


Transform Your Leadership By Drawing

What are some of the benefits you’ve seen when someone learns to make drawing part of their regular practice? Any stories of how this transformed someone’s leadership you can share?


Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission Copyright Dan Roam, Used by Permission

The first discovery of someone who starts drawing again is clarity. We think that the verbal voices in our head make beautiful sense – right up to the moment we try to describe our ideas to someone else and we find ourselves spinning and our audience drifting away. Pictures fix that, in a couple ways.

First, when you draw out your idea, you don’t have to remember anything: the full logic of your idea is there before you, all in one place, all immediately scannable, and none of it hidden. (And if you can’t draw out at least a few pieces of your idea, I think it’s important to ask yourself how well you really know it.)

Second, drawing exposes holes in your thinking that you typically don’t notice when just talking. It’s really easy to lie to yourself with words but a lot harder with a picture.

I’ve seen this sudden discovery of clarity hundreds of times in consulting and training sessions. My favorite example was when Ted, the Director of Strategy at one of the world’s largest professional services companies, had an epiphany during a visual-thinking class. I was taking the group through my “Six-by-six” visual storytelling exercise when Ted suddenly jumped up, and waving one of his pictures, ran out of the room.

He returned thirty minutes later, saying, “I just sold the job! I took a photo of my sketch and emailed it to my client, then called and walked them through it. I finally saw the way through – and they finally saw it, too.”


“In sales, it’s not what you say; it’s how they perceive what you say.” -Jeffrey Gitomer


As a student of innovation, I was fascinated by your five essential visual innovation prompts. Would you share one of those with us and how this has had an impact on organizational thinking?

Top Reasons Why Great Bosses Celebrate Small Wins

Celebratory team
James Pointon is a customer consultant and an avid blogger at OpenAgent. James is a great fan of motivational and productivity speeches and enjoys sharing his own ideas for personal growth online.


Celebrate Small Victories

When a company wins a major client, signs a great contract or successfully finishes a big project, it is the time for celebrations. However, what happens to those smaller victories, the ones that often make the backbone of a company’s success? Are they celebrated too, or are they just omitted and taken for granted? If you aren’t celebrating small wins, you might be missing some great opportunities to become an even better leader and motivate your team. In fact, the most successful and popular bosses tend to celebrate every victory, no matter the size. Here’s why you should consider doing the same if you want to get the best out of your team.


Leadership Tip: the most successful bosses celebrate victories no matter the size.

6 Reasons to Celebrate Small Wins:


To remember your overall goal

For a team that is working hard on a particular project, it can be a long and hard slog to the finish line. It’s easy to lose motivation and to lose sight of the final goal. By celebrating a small victory, you remind your team of what that overall goal is – and how much closer you now are to completing it. This helps to keep the team going for longer.


Celebrating small victories reminds the team of the overall goal.


To emphasize goal-setting

Not only that, but celebrating each win serves to emphasize how important it is to set goals, and how this makes it so much easier to track your progress. This will encourage your team members to set goals within their own daily tasks and work towards them. The end result will be a more motivated and productive workforce.

Celebrating small wins emphasizes the importance of goal setting.


To boost motivation

When your team is rewarded and praised for each small victory that they achieve, the motivation to continue achieving is much higher. They will feel that their hard work has been noticed and appreciated, which makes them want to continue to work harder and put in more time on each project. When bosses do not celebrate small wins, employees can begin to feel that their hard work is ignored and that they may as well stop working so hard since the results will be the same. This is a dangerous trap to fall into. You should celebrate each victory from each team member, and not just those who achieve something remarkable or at the end of the whole project.


Celebrating small wins shows appreciation which increases motivation.


To show your company’s success

Job satisfaction is likely to be higher if employees feel that they are part of a company which has a high success rate and is doing well in the world of industry. Even if your company is struggling in some areas, it is very important to show that you are succeeding in others. Your employees will be more motivated to achieve the next goal for a successful company, and less likely to start looking for work elsewhere.


Celebrating small victories increases job satisfaction.


To break up the work

When focusing on a long-term project, the day-to-day tasks may be long and monotonous. It’s great for employees to get a break from that work and celebrate instead, even if it is only for a moment. This will help them to return to the tasks at hand with more motivation as well as give them a fresh perspective on their work. It’s a great way to infuse more productivity into what would otherwise be a normal day at work.


Taking a break may increase productivity.

16 Things High-Performing Organizations Do Differently

Football Play : Great Teams

What Great Teams Do Differently

Don Yaeger is an expert on what it takes to cultivate a champion mindset. He was associate editor of Sports Illustrated for over a decade; he has made guest appearances on every show from Oprah to Good Morning America, and he’s also authored more than two dozen books. Now a public speaker, he shares stories from the greatest winners of our generation.

So when his new book, Great Teams: 16 Things High Performing Organizations Do Differently, arrived on my desk, I couldn’t wait to read it.

I wasn’t disappointed. Don’s insight on high-performance is evident on every single page. I recently had the opportunity to talk with him about his research into what makes a team great.


“Great teams are connected to a greater purpose.” -Don Yaeger


Use Your Why to Motivate

Don, you’ve seen the inside of great teams in the sports and the business worlds. Your new book focuses on 16 characteristics of great teams. Let’s talk about a few of them.

 Your first point is that great teams understand their why. Purpose motivates both individuals and teams. How does the personal “why” interact with the team “why”? Do they ever conflict?

In the business world, a “why” is often misunderstood as a company mission statement or code of ethics—which couldn’t be further from the truth. Author and motivational speaker Simon Sinek has described a company’s corporate “why” as “always disconnected from the product, service, or the act you’re performing.” If an organization desires to become a Great Team in the business world, then it must understand how to utilize the “why” properly in order to galvanize support from its professional ranks. “When an organization lays out its cause, how it does so matters,” explained Sinek. “It’s not an argument to be made, but a context to be provided. An organization’s ‘why’ literally has to come first—before anything else.”


“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it.” -Simon Sinek



Companies that understand the purpose and philosophy behind the “why” are usually astute, high-performing organizations that tap directly into the pulse of those they benefit the most. When utilized correctly, this understanding can create a powerful sense of duty and purpose for business teams because the employees know exactly whom they are working for and to what end.


“Great teams build a deep bench at all levels of the organization.” -Don Yaeger


Let Culture Shape Recruiting

You talk about letting culture shape recruiting. In a large company, how do you make this a reality so that every single hiring manager is thinking about culture and not just reviewing a resume?

Purpose and leadership are essential to building a team culture. Once an organization determines its “why” and aligns its leadership style with the needs of its members, it is on the right path to becoming a Great Team. But culture building doesn’t stop there. A team must also recruit the right talent. If done well, recruiting will result in a highly competitive team that is consistently motivated to seek and claim success.

Great Teams recruit players who fit—who will thrive within the established team culture and add value to it. The talent of the employee or teammate is important, but fit trumps all. These organizations understand that Great Team culture establishes an environment conducive to success, but that success ultimately depends on the right kind of personnel.

In today’s marketplace, it is very easy to be wowed by decorated resumes. When the “ideal” candidate—the one with the outstanding CV—arrives, many leaders incorrectly believe that including that person will automatically better the team. A Great Team, however, understands that fit is more important than credentials. Someone who might be perfect for one environment—or might have been great while working for a competitor—will not be a guaranteed fit for another. That’s something hiring managers should keep in mind as they build their teams.


“Great teams realize that fit is more important than credentials.” -Don Yaeger


Successful Huddles Are Crucial

What makes a successful huddle? 

Successful huddles are all about open and consistent communication. Under head coach Bill Walsh, the San Francisco 49ers placed such importance on the art of the meeting that he had specific rules and procedures regarding how each one should run. Walsh analyzed and even recorded meetings to spot potential lulls and weaknesses in their process. He wanted to make sure his assistant coaches—who would sometimes change from year to year—were teaching his team in a consistent fashion.

Quarterback Joe Montana, who came on board right after Walsh did, shared Walsh’s high opinion of meetings. This legendary team leader—who won four Super Bowl championships and is tied for the most titles among all quarterbacks—was known in and around the NFL as “Joe Cool.” He had an uncanny knack for seeing all aspects of the game from his position on the field and was seemingly unflappable in the most pressurized situations. And there was a reason for Montana’s demeanor: like Walsh, he believed in a very diligent, orderly meeting process as a means of keeping players engaged. For Montana, the huddle was a sacred place and the ultimate comfort zone. There were rules to be followed when Montana was giving out information for the next play. If those rules weren’t adhered to, Montana told his teammates to take the issue somewhere else. The huddle was a place where everyone needed to be engaged and headed in the same direction.

Great Teams in businesses can take a page from Walsh’s and Montana’s playbook and conduct orderly, disciplined meetings. Such order makes a bigger difference than many leaders want to admit. A successful meeting revolves around clear communication. It can be pivotal to achieving greatness because it explains precise strategy and opens the door to new ideas. An efficient meeting allows an organization to remain one step ahead of the competition and forces it to remain consistent with any existing strategies. But these ideas must be streamlined by a process and guided by a leader who can filter out the good ideas from the bad.


16 Things High-Performing Organizations Do Differently

  1. Great teams understand their why.
  2. Great teams have and develop great leaders.
  3. Great teams allow culture to shape recruiting.
  4. Great teams create and maintain depth.
  5. Great teams have a road map.
  6. Great teams promote camaraderie and a sense of collective direction.
  7. Great teams manage dysfunction, friction, and strong personalities.
  8. Great teams build a mentoring culture.
  9. Great teams adjust quickly to leadership transitions.
  10. Great teams adapt and embrace change.
  11. Great teams run successful huddles.
  12. Great teams improve through scouting.
  13. Great teams see value others miss.
  14. Great teams win in critical situations.
  15. Great teams speak a different language.
  16. Great teams avoid the pitfalls of success.


Would you share an example of where one team missed “value” and another team spotted it and capitalized on it? 

Why Good Leaders Make You Feel Safe


It All Starts With Safety

Author and speaker Simon Sinek is a gifted storyteller. In this talk, Simon zeroes in on an often overlooked aspect of leadership: safety.

Simon recounts the story of an ambush and its powerful lesson. When Army Captain William Swenson and his men were under heavy fire in Afghanistan, it was all caught on camera. As Swenson is seen helping an injured soldier onto a helicopter, you see Swenson lean over and kiss the injured soldier’s forehead before running back into a battle.


“Leadership is a choice. It is not a rank.” –Simon Sinek


Build a Culture That Encourages Selflessness

Why did he do this? Sinek’s first hypothesis was that the military somehow attracted selfless people. After further investigation, Sinek concluded it was the environment that elevated behavior. The culture and values of the organization were strong enough to encourage selflessness.

We will put our lives at risk to save others because of trust. That means that trust increases safety. When we feel safe, we are empowered. When we are not acting under threat, we are able to give our best, to be more creative, to be more productive. More trust = more safety = more productivity and creativity. It’s a formula that all leaders should study.

Trust and safety may be difficult to measure, but they are essential for optimal performance.


“Good leaders make you feel safe.” –Simon Sinek


Without safety, instead of focusing on outside threats, we are turned inside. When we feel safe, we are able to work together for a common cause and fulfill the leader’s vision.